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Peruvian health officials on alert after oil spills

Advocacy group says this is the third spill in recent weeks in the Amazon River basin.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Feb. 23, 2016 at 9:39 AM
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LIMA, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- The Peruvian Ministry of Health said it had officials dispatched to the Amazon River basin to monitor remediation efforts following a series of oil spills.

State energy company Petroperu spilled about 3,000 barrels of oil from pipelines running through the Amazon basin. Area villagers rely heavily on the Amazon for water.

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Health Minister Anibal Velasquez Valdivia said officials were sent to audit the remediation efforts pledged by Petroperu.

"We have spoken with staff and there are already health brigades in the area," he said. Teams were dispatched with portable water treatment plants to service area villagers, he added.

Advocacy group Amazon Watch said this is the third oil spill in the region in the last month. It held Petroperu responsible, adding the company was continuing with its normal regional operations while the community works to respond to the issue.

The national environmental regulator, known by its Spanish acronym OEFA, said it was working alongside a team from Petroperu to respond to the oil spilled into the Chiriaco and Morona tributaries in northwestern Peru.

"OEFA will fulfill its role of identifying potential environmental impacts generated by the maintenance activities undertaken by the company," the regulator said.

Petroperu said it was committed to addressing the damage caused to local communities and to the environment. The company already met with provincial and federal officials to discuss oil spills from the region's North Peruvian Pipeline.

"Petroperu is committed to addressing water and food issues for the affected communities and to providing medical attention to the population as necessary," the company said in a statement.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Peru has the seventh-largest oil reserves in the region at 741 million barrels. Most of the proven reserves are onshore in the Amazon region, though a country briefing said exploration is limited because of social conflicts and environmental concerns in the area.

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